The Most Compelling Women’s Empowerment Book I’ve Ever Read

With Mother’s Day being a focus I decided to add one more post about a book I just finished that has really spoken to my soul as a woman.

I wasn’t taught how to embrace being a woman. I was raised to be quiet. I was raised to care for everyone else but me. I was raised that when people treated me badly, I should “just ignore it”, “get over it” and just accept it. I was taught that having any emotion other than happy and obedient was wrong, and I wanted to be a good girl…so I took that hook line and sinker.

Now at the age of 34, I realized that part of me really wanted to embrace being a woman, but not in the way that I was taught. I didn’t really know what that looked liked or where to even start remaking myself not just as a woman, but as a strong woman. I can’t tell you how frustrating it was to go on Google and not really find much on how to go about finding what it means to be a woman. It was like women knew something I didn’t and it was that “something” I wanted to learn about…but that something turned out to be that I hadn’t been programmed to embrace myself, and it was going to take a lot more than self-love and self-care bubble baths to do that!

While browsing the bookstore before a session with my therapist, I was drawn to this book called “Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D.” (which you can buy with a click on the affiliate link below). Not to sound dramatic, but it was a bit like pulling a sword from a certain enchanted stone. I knew in my heart that I had to get this and read it, and so I did and I was surprised at the deep levels this book spoke to me.

First, you should know that if I like a book, everyone who gets that book after me will know. I’m one of those types that likes to underline sentences and write in the margins. This is probably why I don’t lend out books I really like because in a way they become like journals. This book is very well loved. This poor paperback is creased in so many ways, the pages are wavey from my wet hands as I flipped them while reading in a bath. It’s scuffed from too many trips to Boston to be slowly read in coffee shops. This book has spoken to me so deeply it’s the first time I felt like someone went through my brain and yanked out all the problem areas and wrote a manual about it, and how to make it better, and then gave it to me.

Dr. Estes, speaks in pictures and stories. She describes such abstract and complicated things using very easy to see images. She also took the time to go through such classics as The Ugly Duckling and Vasalisa the Wise and explain how stories of old were used to teach young girls about the rigors of being a woman as how to interpret the symbols of these stories and apply them in your life. This book taught about being persistent, mentally sharpe, and about the “women’s intuition” which I was raised to believe was stupid…and now I’m finding that it isn’t so much stupid, as underutilized, discounted and feared.

My favorite story so far was about the Ugly Duckling. She also told another story in the same vein called “The Mistaken Zygote”. The idea is similar to the ugly duckling in that for whatever reason, you were born to the wrong family…and that’s okay. It’s okay that they don’t understand you. It’s okay that they make fun of your interests. It’s okay that they tell you that your dreams are stupid. They’re not going to get it because you’re just too different from them. She asks the question, what if you were a beautiful swan, born to mice? You don’t look like them. Their home is too small, they squeak and you squawk, and no matter how hard you try to be a mouse, you’ll never be good enough, and they’ll always be critical of you. So it’s best to just accept that you’re different, thank them for their time, but move on and find your real family. Your real family will be those who support you and love you just for who you are.

On my search for who I am, I’m starting to see how many roles my own family tried to fit me in. They liked it when I was quiet and kept to myself…because my SQUAWK was too loud…but now I’m starting to realize that as a blogger, my squawk is useful! They use to be critical of me wanting to be an artist (drawing “pretty girls in pretty dresses all the time” as my mother put it) or being a writer (and writing stupid fanfics all the time), but both of those where just me stretching my wings that I would use in writing this blog and making YouTube videos. I’m starting to see that all those things that they were critical of, it was because they were either intimidated, or they just didn’t understand….and that’s okay…they don’t need to understand. How can a family of ducks understand an awkward baby swan?

There was also another story called “Sealskin, Soulskin” about these enchanted seals, and they would come to the ice shores and strip off their skin to become beautiful women who danced in the moonlight, and then they’d put their sealskin back on and go back to the wild. However, it was on one of these journey’s that one of the women had their skin stolen by a lonely man who said he’d give it back to her if she just stayed with him for seven years.

The story is about how often women (though it’s now becoming men as well) who will allow others to steal what makes them who they are. They give up their dreams to make their parents happy, or a spouse, or even friends or society. They start to forget that they are not of this world, and they stop returning to that wild place which hydrates their soul and keeps them energized. Pretty soon they start becoming sick, “dehydrated” and depressed. Outside of the story, in the world of reality, we see this all the time. People who subjugate themselves to someone else out of love, or obligation, and they give up their dreams (if only for a time), but then pretty soon they stop having dreams. They get depressed. They lack that desire and drive they had when they were young. They start to lose that luster for life they use to have and if they don’t take back that part of them that is real, that is who they are, then they start to emotionally die. That’s why you have tons of people working at jobs they don’t love, to go home to spouses they don’t love, and they loathe waking up to do it all again. Then there’s two choices….You can either stay and die….or you can start taking back and putting on that part of you that you were born with. That inner drive, and determination, those wishes and hopes, and start investing in that wild part of you that was there, before people started trying to tell you who you are instead of letting you just be.

While this was written mostly for women, I also think that it would help men because these concepts cross gender lines. We ALL struggle, with not knowing who we are, with the expectations of others, with the loss of our dreams, and our wild curious nature.

If you are looking for a real self-help book that will give you room to think and consider yourself, instead of spoon-feeding you advice which you may or may not take in, I highly recommend this book. The use of stories really makes it easy to remember these lessons and concepts. It also made me hyper-aware of the stories society now tells us in movies. Being an adult it’s too easy to say, “well I’m already here. I already got the degree in this field, or I can’t because I don’t have a degree, or this is how it’s always been and changing to be more true to myself is too hard, or stupid, or unacceptable”. This book will give you food for thought on whether or not that’s actually true. Are you really too stupid or were you just born to the wrong family? Is this really who you are or was your skin stolen from you because someone else had needs they wanted you to meet? Do you have to stay the way people have told you to be, or are you ready to start remembering who you actually are?

If you got this book and want to share your own thoughts, or even if you have more questions about it, please feel free to talk in the comments section below! I would love to talk about this with you! Please feel free to check out my own blossoming YouTube Channel HERE, if you’d like to keep up with future videos I post. If you would like to be notified when I post again please SIGN UP for email notifications and if you would like exclusive content into my life then feel free to follow my social media listed on the sidebar! Have a wonderful day! – Heather Astaneh